27/06/2011 Daily Politics


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Good morning, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. As strikes loom,


the Government starts to talk tough with the unions. Are we headed for


a destructive showdown? The Government announces the biggest


defence shake-up for a generation. But cannot help close the black


hole at the MoD? And remember this? A former Cabinet colleague well. We


will discuss the legacy of Margaret Thatcher's handbag, which goes on


With us for the duration, format army colonel, now Conservative MP,


Bob Stewart. Welcome back. Let's kick off this morning with news


that the Chinese Prime Minister... Premiere, rather, Wen Jiabao, is on


his second day of a visit to the UK. He was greeted at Number Ten


earlier this morning. He has just arrived at a Foreign Office, where


he is signing an agreement which gives British government --


companies access to markets in regional Chinese cities. The deal


could potentially be worth more than �10 billion to the UK economy.


In a moment he will be talking to the Prime Minister in a press


conference, as well as trade, the sticky issue of China's a human


rights record is likely to be raised. Bob Stewart, how sensible


is it for us now to but East when it comes to trade? Absolutely. That


is the Bigg Market. Asia is the Bigg Market, and perhaps South


America. It's great if we go beyond Shanghai, that kind of area, going


to the hinterland. China has stacks of money and we wouldn't mind


having our fair share of that in trade. They import too much to us,


we want to balance that up. Fine, the figures make sense. But I


wonder how you, as someone who came to prominence sitting on that tank


and shouting at people about human rights in the Balkans, how does it


sit with you that it would mean doing deals with a country that


does not value human rights as we do in this country? It's sad. But,


as you said, it will be on the agenda the whole time. I hope that


eventually China will come round. We have dealt with regimes, I have


personally dealt with regimes that don't have much respect of human


rights. I'm afraid that is the real world. I would love it to be


Utopian, I would love it not to be a factor. But it is and we have to


deal with it. Nobody is asking for Utopia, but is it not hypocritical


to pursue action against Colonel Gaddafi because he is anti-


democratic, a dictator, because he suppresses opposition. But many of


those things could be talked about when it comes to the Chinese, but


we are falling over ourselves to plug a financial hole with them.


Actually, we're taking action against Colonel Gaddafi because he


threatened to kill hundreds of people in Benghazi. Under the


Security Council resolution, that is what... But there is some debate


about whether we overstep that line. There is debate. It would be good


for him to go. But that is not part of the Security Council resolution.


But you take my Point Barrow, there are some values that we hold


sacrosanct. There are regimes that don't. Some we choose to be friends


with, others which used take action against. You are right, I'm afraid


that is right. We will not get that perfect. Sometimes you have to dine


with a long spoon. Maybe we are dining with a long spoon in China's


case. Or chopsticks! Thousands of schools and colleges in England and


Wales are predicted to close on Thursday. Civil servants will also


walkout over reductions in pension benefits. There is little prospect


of a settlement before Thursday. Over the last few days, the


rhetoric has ratcheted up, as it usually does at this stage in a


dispute. As you say, this week we are going


to see the biggest public sector strikes for years. It could become


a pretty drawn-out battle between the unions and the Government.


Teachers, lecturers and civil servants are striking on Thursday


in protests against reforms to their pensions. But other unions


have warned that they are prepared to take action as well. Dick


Prentice, the general secretary of Unison, says it will not just be


short stoppages but long-term industrial action through all of


our public services. Talks between the unions and government are


ongoing. To be honest, there's not much sign of compromise on either


side. Three weeks ago, the Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable


warned that increased industrial action could cause pressure for


tougher union laws. Education Secretary Michael Gove said that


strike laws should be kept under review. One option would be to


impose a turnout threshold on union ballots. He also wants schools to


stay open on Thursday, despite the strikes, possibly with the help of


parents. Let's look to Francis Maude, because he said that the


Government should stop paying for full-time union officials in


Whitehall. All of these things are contentious to union ears. Both


sides say they want to avoid disruption to the public, but it


now looks inevitable. We are joined by Sally Hunt,


general secretary of the university and college union. It is one of the


unions that are going to strike on Thursday. You want the Government


to back down on increasing the retirement age, not to change the


pension Index to a tougher index. Not to go to a career average


scheme for pensions. You and I know that the Government is not going to


give way on any of these things. Well, you make us sound


unbelievably unreasonable. No, I don't... What we want the


Government to do is talk. It is talking. What they are doing his


soundbites and they been doing it for a couple of weeks. If you want


to have credible negotiation, you want to make sure that the clear


red lines on either side are ones that people have to explore and


talk about. Are you wrong in saying that you want the Government to


move on these areas? We want them to move, but we want to have a


proper negotiation, as we have before. On what, sorry?


teachers' pension scheme. The difficulty we have got is that we


want to resolve the situation and, as on many occasions, we've had to


review pension schemes because we accept we are getting old and in


many cases we are having a healthier old age. That means we


have to have the flexibility to explore how. What the Government


has done over the last few weeks is, rather than say, we recognise there


are issues around accrual rates, around 80 of retirement and


contribution levels, rather than saying, can we explore that, set


against what Hutton said, what the National Audit Office has said,


they are saying, this is what it is going to be and that is it.


negotiations are still going on? hope so, we are going into


negotiations will stop so why are you going on strike when things are


still going on? The strength of feeling has been to such an extent


that we have some members now, every poorly paid, who do not


believe that the Government is negotiating in good faith. So why


it do you not break off the negotiations? That is not what our


members would want. What is the point of a one-day strike? I hope


it will make sure that the Government understands the strength


of feeling and that we will get into a discussion that allows us to


say, OK, now we are doing something sensible. I hope we don't have to


strike on Thursday. Assuming none of these hopes come true, the


Government say, well, they went on strike for one day, nobody noticed,


what do you do next? We sit with our sister unions, we explore what


is going to happen with the other unions moving towards industrial


action. It seems to me that we could be moving to an autumn of a


lot of tension. We don't want that. This Thursday's strike is just a


token strike, whatever happens. It is a shot across the bows of the


Government. You are running into the summer, when there is no point


go on strike because none of your members will be working. If there's


going to be a clash, it will be in the autumn? I think the clash is


happening now. But you are only going on strike for one day. Having


the Civil Service affected, schools closed down, having universities


not able to teach... Not many people will notice. I disagree. If


you live where I do, if you have children, as I do, you are having


discussions right the way to the last week with parents that know


that it is a real issue for them. Those parents, friendly, are not


saying that the teachers and lecturers are wrong, they are


saying, what Tanit is going on that we have a government that is not


discussing this credibly but doing this? The Poles don't suggest there


is much sympathy for you. But we will see when the strikes take


place. -- polls. Why should harder and tax money be used to keep union


officials and a job? -- hard-earned tax money. If we go beyond that


emotive discussion... What's the answer to the question? �80 million


of taxpayers' money is used to pay workers, not to do work, but to be


full-time union officials. Why? make sure, in many cases, that we


have a good industrial relations, to make sure that people at work


are represented, to make sure that you have a good and well working


workplace. What is happening most of the time, if I might say so, is


that people that represent people and trade unions are doing it in


their own time. They are not generally doing his... Some are


getting bigger salaries, �80 million a year is a lot of money.


Some across the public sector are given support by employers. A lot.


They recognise that it makes sense to have people who are experienced


and know what they're doing. The majority of people that give their


time give it of their own free will and do it because they care about


making sure that people in their work are looked after and are safe.


That's something I'm not going to be defensive about. We can bring


the colonel in. You get the impression that the Government has


made up its mind what it wants to do. To call what it is doing at the


moment negotiation is really not the proper meaning of that word. At


the very most, it's prepared to tinker at the margins. That's not


negotiation. I think it's trying to negotiate. I very much hope that we


will not have a strike. But you are, treat our viewers seriously, there


will be a strike on Thursday. not convinced of that. Do you want


to put a tenner on it? Actually, no pulled that yes, because you know


there is going to be one. What the unions want to know is how much


flexibility is their on these issues on the table? Or is the


Government going through the notions of negotiation for form's


sake? I don't think it is going through the motions. It does


actually want to get a decent compromise. It also wants to make


sure that teachers at all levels get treated properly. Where should


it compromise? I don't know the details of where it is going to


compromise. I know damn well that negotiations should continue, even


though there is a striker. And I agree, negotiations should continue.


I hope it doesn't come. I would almost put my tenner. You are on an


army pension, I'd keep your money if I were you. We are beating the


Government this afternoon. It seems that you haven't got much hope that


there will be any movement. Were they to talk, if they will look at


the age of retirement, if they will look at the 3% tax they have put on


our members, if it will look at the accrual rates, if they will say,


actually, Danny Alexander in his press statement was not doing the


negotiation, but we are and that is not where we are. Unfortunately,


Listening to all of these ifs, I think we'll see you on the picket


line. I'm glad you're going to join us! We will just be there as


journalists. Cup of tea? Even a copy, if you are nightspots of more


than I get here! They are going to need to find more


than a tenner, it's been called the bigger shake-up of the armed forces


for a generation, Liam Fox is going to tell the House of Commons about


plans to slim down the command structure. Mr Fox has said that he


wants to put an end to the infighting between the army, navy


and air force and bring costs under control. With continued commitments


in Libya and Afghanistan, semi in the military are complaining that


ministers are already stretching resources beyond their limits. --


some in the military. Return from Afghanistan and a


jumble of the motions for everyone. Joy, pride and perhaps sheer relief


that they are home, for now. We have heard a lot of talk in recent


weeks from politicians and retired top brass about overstretched, the


idea that we are asking our armed forces to do too much with too


little. If it does exist, what is the effect on the people at the


sharp end, our service personnel and their families? People like


Nina and Ryan Gillette. Right and left the Army in January after two


tours of Afghanistan. He accepts that politicians are trying to help,


but there are still problems. Sometimes they might over-expect


what the army is able to do. What I saw in terms of overstretch was the


fact that the regiments were not big enough to cope with the


operational requirements. A big thing for the guys is that when


they do a six-month tour they do want to come back and spent time


with their families. commitments are causing concern and


tension at the highest level. Plans to streamline the very top of the


armed forces, in an attempt to improve their efficiency, will be


announced today. But will they actually relieve the pressure?


terms of families that talk to us, there is evidence of overstretch.


With the redundancies facing all three services, they are doing the


same amount of work with less people. The Army families


Federation has also discovered evidence of a problem with leave.


More than 60% of those who took part in an informal survey said


that they or their partners had struggled to take all of their time


off, something that Ryan and Nina experienced. None of our friends


could come to our wedding because they can get the time off. These


are the things, there's not much time to get your annual leave. The


minute you go back, you've got your post opera leave, then you are


straight into training again. So, it becomes a problem. While no one


doubts that ministers meanwhile, they may need to take bold


Ministers need to look at the decisions that were made and re-


examine some of them, perhaps even reverse them. People can still see


us doing the same amount of work, but with less people. No one joins


the armed forces for an easy life, and that includes the families. But


they do expect a fair deal. Colonel Bob Stewart is still with


us. We also joined by Dan Jarvis, a former Army officer. How will get


of Reading nearly all of the military representation on the


Defence board improve decision- taking? The Chief of Defence Staff


is meant to represent all three, and all three are meant to work to


him. I can see a slimming down being quite a good thing, and have


always thought that, ever since I worked as a major in the Ministry


of Defence. There were too many generals. And there are too many


admirals and too many Air Commodores. Why not get rid of this


top-heavy top brass? That is what the plan is, isn't it? No, it is


simply not to let them sit on the Defence board. It is a slimming


down as well. We have more admirals than we have ship's! And probably


more generals than there are regiments, you're absolutely right.


And more civil servants and the MoD than soldiers in uniform! Some of


those 60,000 are people who do guarding of bases and release


soldiers. It is not quite as easy as that. I agree that slimming down


the top ranks in the armed forces, but the Chiefs of Staff will decide


exactly who goes as I understand. Why is our defence procurement so


useless? I have no idea. I remember in the early 1980s, when I was a


major, watching Michael Heseltine come in and saying, I'm going to


sort out procurement with lean look and sharp sword, but with the


Ministry of Defence, the problem is, it is like you put a huge great


ball of party at the end of a corridor and run at it really hard,


and you get off and say, look, I have made a big impression. But you


turn around, and it has gone back. But we have got to drive. That is


certainly true. But the assets that this government has at the moment


that it inherited from the previous government, obviously, they haven't


had time to make many changes. I wonder, as a tax payer, but we are


paying �36 billion in defence, the Defence Secretary reminded us this


morning that even after these cuts, we will be the fourth-biggest


defence budget in the world, and we seem to be struggling to keep a


couple of tornadoes of Eurofighter has over the skies of Libya. It is


essential to do what we can to achieve the best value for the


taxpayer. What is more important is that our service people who serve


on a frontline get the right kit been the right places. From my


experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, I had the right kit. It wasn't true


from the start, though. That is right. This is precisely why the


Government should do the right thing and had a new chapter. There


are currently making significant decisions about resources based on


how the world was in October 2010, and not have it is today. But isn't


there a better hypocrisy in that? Your government didn't have a


defence spending review in 10 years. Remember what happened to John


Nott's defence review? They then invaded the Falklands. You didn't


do one for 10 years. I think the parallel is 9/11. There was then a


new chapter, which sat on top of the SIDS are from 1998. The Prime


Minister fundamentally misunderstood my question the other


day. Nobody is saying that we need a second review, we need a new


chapter to sit on the board. But it doesn't mean that you don't


Revisited. So will there be a new chapter? There will be a continual


vision of what has happened, and that is sensible. It is normal


merge to practise. Given the experience of what has happened, as


Mr Jarvis has points out since the review came out, what differences


would you like to see made now? can tell you what I would like!


That is what I asked. I would like to have an aircraft carrier back.


But we haven't got that. And if you do that, what are you going to cut?


As Dan said, the world has moved on. But I do slightly disagree. The


Libyan operation, the one we are talking about, we wouldn't do it


differently. We probably wouldn't use Harriers. We want to see the


restoration of three infantry battalions cut by Labour as soon as


possible. We will never be able to really improve the welfare of our


forces unless we look at expanding army. The first was Dr Liam Cox,


the third was the now Prime Minister. -- Dr Liam Fox. What


happened to that? We haven't got the money. If you actually want to


run a defence budget, you still have to do it within limits. The


world has changed. We haven't got the money to do everything we want.


Labour's job is to do a critique of government defence policy. But


Labour leaving behind this �38 billion black hole kind of


undermines things, doesn't it? don't accept the detail about �38


billion. Everybody else does. don't think they do. The point


about resources is that we need to be spending money based on how the


world this today, and that is why we need, in light of the Arab


Spring, to really look at the S D S R, a new chapter. To make sure that


the billions of pounds that we are spending is spent in accordance


with the world today and not the world prior to the Arab Spring.


We have to leave it there, although I make prediction that in 10 years


somebody will be sitting in this chair asking some other MP why it


the procurement is so useless! It really is just as well that


Andrew has been a good boy this morning. Because I have got my bag.


I have brought it into the studio. Are you leaving home?


Know, that is a handbag. I carry it around every day. The handbag was


Lady Thatcher's weapon of choice. Mine is a satchel, very old, heavy


and dangerous. Margaret Thatcher and her use of the hand -- fashion


accessory even gave rise to the term handbagging. Her handbag is to


go on sale at Christie's today. Here is a reminder of some of its


moments. # We are living in a material world,


# Living in a material world, We all have our own recollections


of that terrifying handbag. With us now we have the fashion expert


Caryn Franklin. It was almost like a suit of armour. It was, but it


was also ultimately the symbolic of a woman in a job where she was


among us, the rest of the team were men. It became something that said,


this is a woman. And it was fashion's act of logistics, her


life went in there. She was organised, she was and jangling


change in her pockets, not knowing where her keys are. It came to


represent somebody who was authoritative, very organised. And


it would go on the table. It is interesting that you think it


feminised her, because for many it was felt that she might take a


swing at them! Were they very expensive? It is gaining mythology,


this handbagged! It was just a handbag. I think that is the point,


because something can be just a jacket are just a pair of shoes,


but this was more than that. served a purpose. There is nothing


sire -- stylish about any item unless it serves a function. But it


was a prop. You can look at various politicians, Winston Churchill and


his cigar, for instance. Harold Wilson's unsmoked pipe. And then


behind closed doors it turned into a cigar and the beer tent to brandy.


He was saying, I am a man of the people. But other women might want


to relate to this, but if a man had a bag... I will defend any female


politician's right to have a bag! We had time on our hands, so here


is what we think David Cameron would look like with a man back.


This is what Andrew Neil would look Hold it properly! If you think,


�100,000, the value of that, would anything that you had to be worth


that? Is that how much it might raise? Her last Salvatore Ferragamo


We are looking at a woman's handbag, and she was a rare woman in a man's


world. If you look at Nelson Mandela, he weaves together to


heritages, an African style of design on his shirt but a very


Western shirt. Another man who wears a sharp suit and a novelty


tie today. Tell me about the handbag. In 1982, my company, the


company in Cheshire, -- a company abroad, was blown up, and Margaret


Thatcher came out to Ireland, and I went around the hospital with


Margaret Thatcher. I have to say, she was astonishingly kind. She


went round the bends, and one-bed, she was visibly moved to tears. The


end result, she sat down and cuddled a man. People say she's


terribly good personally. And then she went out and gave the press


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